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Center to Sue Over Toxic Dispersants in Gulf

To stop the oil-spill response from making the catastrophe even worse for wildlife, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for not protecting endangered species from the nearly one million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants it approved for use in the Gulf. Our notice requests that the agency, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, immediately study the effects of dispersants on species like sea turtles, sperm whales, piping plovers, and corals -- and then incorporate the resulting knowledge into spill-response efforts.

In theory, dispersants, chemicals used to break oil spills into tiny droplets, let the oil be diluted faster as it's eaten by microorganisms. But the effects of what BP is now doing in the Gulf -- using huge quantities of toxic dispersants and injecting them into very deep water -- has never been studied. And dispersants, including Corexit 9527, the type of dispersant used by BP (and banned in the United Kingdom), have been shown to be harmful to seabirds, corals, and fish.

"We're left with few options ranging from bad to worse, and maybe even worse than that, to clean up the spill," said Senior Oceans Attorney Andrea Treece. "There is an element, here, of BP trying to 'bury the body' with dispersants by keeping the oil beneath the surface, keeping it from shore, making it a lot harder to track."

Check out our press release and get the latest on the Gulf spill on our comprehensive, updated-daily Gulf Disaster Web page.

MMS Stumbles Toward Confused Ban on Environmental Waivers

In response to weeks of negative publicity about its continued exemption of oil drilling plans from environmental review, the Minerals Management Service issued a press release yesterday claiming it will "strengthen safety requirements" but leaving the world confused as to whether it will continue exempting the oil industry from environmental laws.

The agency says it will require more information from oil companies when it issues drilling permits, but says nothing about its own completely broken, corrupt permitting system. Will it revoke the 400+ illegal permits it has issued since January, 2009? Will it cease giving out environmental waivers? As with all of the administration's reforms and moratoriums to date, no one seems to know, least of all the Mineral Management Service.

Here's our take, as reported by the Washington Post yesterday:

Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said they should "shut down" the exemptions when it comes to offshore drilling.

"MMS is making baby steps in the right direction, but it is not enough to require more information from the oil companies," Suckling said. "MMS needs to formally revoke all 400 environmental waivers given out in the past 18 months and redo each and every decision."

Now there's a clear plan. Read the full story in the Washington Post and then take action to close the loophole on environmental waivers.

Green Sturgeon Safeguarded From Fishing, Dams, and More

In a big win for one of the world's most ancient and impressive fish, this week the National Marine Fisheries Service finalized regulations making it illegal to kill or harm the endangered green sturgeon that are part of the southern population. The rules, created under a section of the Endangered Species Act, prohibit all unauthorized "take" -- including killing, harassing, hunting, capturing, and collecting -- of green sturgeon throughout their spawning and rearing range in California's Sacramento, Feather, and lower Yuba rivers, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay, as well as in marine areas and estuaries along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. The rules could bring changes in the operations of dams, fisheries, dredging operations, and pesticide applications.

North American green sturgeon have survived since the Jurassic; the fish can live for 70 years, grow to 7.5 feet in length, and weigh up to 350 pounds. A petition and lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity led to protection of the southern population under the Endangered Species Act in 2006. Last year, 8.6 million acres were protected as "critical habitat" for the species, and the Fisheries Service announced it would develop a recovery plan to help the sturgeon survive and recover.

Get details and background in our press release and learn more about the green sturgeon.

Ozark Chinquapin Tree Deserves Protection After 35 Years

Following a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, last Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the rare Ozark chinquapin tree -- first suggested for Endangered Species Act protection in 1975 -- may finally warrant that protection. The chinquapin has been decimated by an introduced fungus called chestnut blight, which prevents the species from maturing and producing seeds, limiting it to sprouting from roots. But instead of placing it on the endangered species list, the feds put it on the "candidate list" to await protection indefinitely.

"Thirty-five years is far too long for the Ozark chinquapin to wait for the protection it needs to survive," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director for the Center. "And there are hundreds of wildlife species that, like the chinquapin, are facing extinction and are in need of protection."

The chinquapin decision is the sixth made since the Center sued to force protection for 93 species in February -- including positive decisions for the striped newt, Mohave ground squirrel, Tucson shovel-nosed snake, Berry Cave salamander, and Puerto Rican harlequin butterfly. In addition to the 93 species in our suit, there are currently 252 rare plants and animals designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service as "candidates" for protection.

Check out our press release and learn more about our Candidate Project.

Suit Filed to Protect Rare Creek, Rarer Frog

In defense of an endangered frog and one of the West's most delicate watersheds, this Tuesday the Center for Biological Diversity sued the feds to stop destructive livestock grazing in central Arizona's Fossil Creek. Last year, the U.S. Forest Service approved grazing by nearly 500 head of cattle in a 42,000-acre allotment straddling Fossil Creek, a river recently resurrected from human destruction but now poised for another downfall due to grazing, a crumbling road system, and unregulated recreation. These contribute to soil erosion that harms aquatic species in the watershed, including the Chiricahua leopard frog -- a species protected as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. About 290 cows have already been released in the area by the grazing permit holder, J.P. Morgan & Chase Co.

"Cattle could soon wipe out endangered animals at Fossil Creek and similar sensitive areas," said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center. "Public agencies must protect natural treasures from excessive grazing, not sacrifice them to private interests."

Get details in our press release and learn more about Fossil Creek and the Chiricahua leopard frog.

Center Fights ORV Ruin on New Mexico Forest

This Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity filed our second petition in two years to close the "Los Utes" road, a route on New Mexico's Santa Fe National Forest plagued by illegal vehicle use and recurring vandalism. Though full-sized vehicles are banned on the road, ORV use is rampant there, threatening sensitive wildlife of the Jemez Mountains including elk, bears, deer, turkeys, and the rare Jemez Mountains salamander -- currently being considered for Endangered Species Act protection. In early 2010, a wooden post proclaiming the area closed to full-sized vehicles was sawed off, and just this spring, the lock on to the road was destroyed so the gate could be left open. The Forest Service has been slow to respond to the damage in the past and has been lax in enforcing its own laws to protect nature from illicit vehicle use.

The Center's last petition addressing the problem, filed in 2009, was dismissed, and unfortunately the evidence of illegal activity that we presented last month to New Mexico's off-road vehicle board wasn't taken seriously. "We're not going to allow the Forest Service to simply walk away from its duty to protect public lands and habitats," said the Center's Cyndi Tuell. "It's time for the agency to step up to unruly off roaders and protect the wildlife and the places that are cherished by the public."

Check out our press release and learn more about our campaign for responsible travel-management planning.

Tell Discovery Channel to Whack Bat-killing Show

The Discovery Channel recently aired a shocking episode of the show Man vs. Wild showing the program's macho, melodramatic star Bear Grylls throwing a flaming torch into a bat cave -- and then clubbing the unique flying mammals to death when they fled the smoking cave. Grylls was ostensibly illustrating how to kill bats for food, but in fact demonstrated exactly the kind of senseless slaughter, deadly disrespect, and profound misunderstanding that has pushed bat species around the world to the brink of extinction. Grylls touts himself as a spokesperson for proper outdoor conduct and conservation, including being an ambassador for RARE, whose mission is "to conserve imperiled species and ecosystems around the world by inspiring people to care for and protect nature" -- but his irresponsible and vile bat-killing display shows he does just the opposite.

Now more than ever, with the bat disease white-nose syndrome killing bats by the millions as it spreads across the country, it's urgent that we show understanding and compassion to these creatures that are vital to our ecosystems and take action to save them -- not promote the idea that bats can be needlessly butchered in what the Discovery Channel has sickeningly called a game of "bat tennis." For bats, the struggle to survive is far from a game.

Express your outrage to the Discovery Channel and tell it to stop distributing the bat-killing episode and start promoting the right message about bats now. Then learn more about the Center for Biological Diversity's campaign to save bats from the white-nose syndrome crisis.

Center Staffer Runs Grand Canyon, Spies Condors

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity's GIS specialist and IT Director Curt Bradley completed an ambitious rim-to-rim run of the Grand Canyon. During the 8.5-hour, 23-mile run -- from the South Kaibab Trailhead to the North Kaibab Trailhead, with an elevation gain of 5,800 feet -- Bradley experienced firsthand the exhilarating beauty of one of the West's most spectacular natural phenomena . . . and became all the more devoted to helping protect it. Currently, uranium mining threatens to taint the Grand Canyon's water supply -- from springs gushing out of the sides of rocks to the great Colorado River -- ruining drinking water and spoiling habitat for Grand Canyon species, including endangered ones like the California condor. During his trip, Bradley saw a pair of endangered California condors soaring above the Colorado River near Navajo Bridge. Right now, only 73 condors fly wild in Arizona, and they're all seriously threatened by lead poisoning from lead bullets. The Center is working to ban lead ammo in Arizona and across the country for the sake of condors, other wildlife, and people, and to ensure that others who come to the Grand Canyon to run, hike, and appreciate its unique geography will also have condors flying overhead.

"Experiencing the breathtaking natural splendor of the Grand Canyon would make anyone want to protect it for the sake of the wildlife, the water, the millions of people who rely on that water, and the many hikers I saw enjoying the canyon with me," said Bradley.

Learn more about the Center's campaigns to protect the Grand Canyon and the California condor, plus our push to Get the Lead Out nationwide.

Gray Wolf Howls in Times Square, Eco-iPhone App Gains Fame

Spreading the word about endangered species conservation in two of the country's most bustling cities, this spring a Center for Biological Diversity photograph of a howling Mexican gray wolf flashed on billboards in Times Square and Las Vegas. The sign appearances (which we didn't spend any money to get, in case you were wondering) were part of the Center's endangered species education campaign, specifically associated with Wild Calls -- our new, creative iPhone application that lets folks take action for endangered species straight from their iPhones. The app also lets you download endangered species ringtones, wake up to an endangered species alarm, and much more -- including receiving this very online newsletter on your iPhone wherever you are in the world.

Since we launched Wild Calls this spring, it's been downloaded about 2,000 times in 43 countries -- and has been lauded in the media and across the blogosphere.

Learn more about Wild Calls, hear what has to say about it, and get the latest on our Mexican gray wolf campaign.

Kierán Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: piping plover photos (c) Sidney Maddock; Deepwater Horizon explosion courtesy U.S. Coast Guard; green sturgeon (c) Dan W. Gotshall; Ozark chinquapin courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation; Chiricahua leopard frog courtesy Arizona Game and Fish; Jemez Mountain Salamander by Chris Judson, NPS; Indiana bat courtesy USFWS; Grand Canyon (c) Curt Bradley; Times Square billboard courtesy

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